A little over a week ago I sat down and had “the talk” with my bishop. Then I drove down to my parent’s house to have “the talk” with them.
It was the longest Sunday of my life.
On the mission Sundays were my least favorite day. We’d spend all day scrambling to meet our weekly goals, and I’d always be exhausted by the end of the day. Fast Sundays were the worst, especially when we had to get around on bikes in the humid Southern heat.
That Sunday was much worse than any Sunday on my mission.
After Stake Conference I just couldn’t hack it anymore. Even though I’d calmed down from my initial reaction (which was to remove myself completely from the Church), it was time to define my membership on my own terms.
Since my ward meets at 1:30 I had all morning to worry about how things were going to work out. It ended up being not that bad. In fact, after all the horror stories I’ve heard about bishops’ reactions to ward members coming out my experience was nearly ideal.
I stepped into his office and he could tell right away that I was nervous. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I need to be released from my calling.”
“Oh, ok. What’s going on?”
“I’m gay and I’m not going to fight it anymore.”
“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Now, I don’t think he meant it as “I’m sorry you’re gay.” It was more like “I’m sorry about the difficult position this puts you in.” From the beginning he never judged me or tried to tell me what to do. He did everything he could to understand my situation so he would know how to help me.
He admitted that he didn’t know a lot about homosexuality, especially in the Mormon context. “You have some tough decisions to make, though, and I understand if you don’t feel comfortable coming to Church.” I reassured him that I’ll probably attend Sacrament Meeting most weeks, but as long as I’m right in the middle of Church activity there’s a tremendous pressure pushing me out, and it might push me so far away that I’d never have anything to do with the Church again. However, if I come as close as I feel comfortable, just close enough to get from it what I need, then I can maintain some relationship with the Church.
The question did come up if I’d “acted out on these feelings,” to which I responded “yes, but I’m not ready to go over all that just yet.” My bishop said “that’s fine. I’m always here if you need or want to talk about anything. For now we’ll release you and won’t give you another calling unless you decide you’re ready for one.”
I had no idea how things would happen, but I can’t think of a better way he could have handled it. In fact, I wish there were official training for local leaders on how to minister to gay church members, because then I wouldn’t have worried so much going in.
Despite the positive experience with my bishop I still left his office exhausted. I’d promised to help him count tithing after the block since his counselors were gone and I was the only clerk there, so I couldn’t run off and hide, but I really wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about sitting through priesthood meeting. Fortunately, the temple was only five minutes away, so I drove there and listened to cheesy EFY music that reminds me of my mission. The clouds didn’t part and I didn’t hear a voice or concourses of angels, but looking at the temple and thinking about my mission experience I felt that being open and honest about who I am and what I believe was the right thing to do.
Even being open and honest with my parents.